Maintenance, Garbage on Minds of Amsterdam Tenants

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by gavin aronsen

amsterdam houses residents got the ear of their local council member, community board 7 and new york city housing authority (nycha) officials to discuss their concerns.

the tenants gave their visitors a walkthrough of the 13-building public housing complex on 218 w. 64th st. they explained the need for more youth program funding, problems with the city's centralized call center (ccc), the intrusion of private-sector garbage on the public housing complex's grounds and the potential benefits to landmarking the houses.

upper west side council member gale brewer said she is trying to secure more funding for 18- to 25-year-olds so they can have more opportunities at the nearby lincoln square neighborhood center on west 65th street.

margarita curet, president of the residents association, called the children's services run through the center promising. the complex was working with other groups to provide more opportunities for teenagers, including a recently introduced dance program.

victor gonzalez, co-chair of the community board 7's housing committee, sympathized with tenant concerns that the centralized call center-a pilot program that gives residents a number to report maintenance problems-slowed down the current building's repair process.

before the program was implemented two years ago, gonzalez said, problems were handled more efficiently because complaints went directly to the property maintenance supervisor.

now, complaints go through customer service representatives at the call center. tenants said that under the new system, maintenance workers came to fix the wrong problems, wait times were longer and communication was worse.

"it's apparent the ccc is not taking down the correct information," gonzalez said. "the ccc definitely needs to be tweaked."

curet showed a form she has handed out to tenants to record the exact date and ticket number for their complaints in hopes of clearing up ccc mistakes.

during a brief tour of the amsterdam houses grounds, gonzalez and residents passed by a large pile of trash bags from an adjacent private-sector building, which sat on the edge of a roadway and a sidewalk on the public complex.

nycha housing manager clarence gordon said there had been meetings to try solving the problem, which has attracted rats.

"if sanitation is not fining them they'll continue to do it," gordon said.

nycha deputy director gene palumbo said exterminators do come three times a week to treat the grounds.

the group also passed by a play area that is little more than benches and a series of crawling tunnels and not as well-used as a public playground just a short walk away. a green committee has talked about renovating the area, but there are no definite plans yet.

gonzalez said more communication with the property maintenance supervisor would help the green committee's efforts. palumbo, on a related note, said any tenant could submit a proposal to start a garden on the grounds.

"there are tons of opportunities if someone wants them," brewer said at the meeting.

brewer also discussed fear among residents that the 60-year-old amsterdam houses could be sold to private developers. brewer said the landmarking would be a "source of pride" and allay fears of being bought.

however, she added, "i am sure that these buildings will never get sold, but there is that fear."

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